Photos submitted by Kilbourne Group/Nick Friesen
With all the hype our team has paid to Roberts Alley in recent months, you may think something big is just getting started. But the dreaming, envisioning and planning of a pedestrian friendly corridor in Downtown Fargo started so many years ago.
One visionary we see the impact of today is Moorhead native Monte Jones, the namesake of Monte’s Downtown, a fine dining establishment on Broadway from 2002 to 2015. Known for his flair for unmatched guest service and impeccable presentation of a memorable dining experience, Monte made an impression on New York City’s hospitality scene working in a number of fine-dining spots. He returned to the Fargo area and opened Monte’s at a time when Downtown Fargo needed it most.
In 2008, Monte and his now-husband Jerry Erbtoesser set to work on a new vision. He saw possibility in expanding the idea of Downtown Fargo off Broadway and decided to open the Silver Moon Supper Club in Roberts Alley, behind the Fargo Theatre. Our little team shared in his excitement about filling the alley with people and providing them plenty of shopping and dining options along the short stretch of urban backroad.
Silver Moon quickly turned into a discovery destination. You almost had to hear about it through friends and then have someone show you how to get there. And once you found it, you were welcomed in and treated to a great Fargo experience. Some people warned Monte about the hidden location and its distance from Broadway. But he embraced the mystery, the neighbors and the risk and took the leap.
Monte designed the space to fill the kitchen with natural light from windows facing Roberts Street, which he believed was important to the work of the kitchen staff. He put the front door in Roberts Alley, a new concept that set the stage for what we have today. Without the bold, risk taking dreams of those who came before us, Downtown Fargo would be in a much different place.
We lost the hidden gem after the double whammy of forced closure in 2009 due to flood concerns and the economic downturn that took its toll. Silver Moon closed in 2010. Monte and Jerry are now heavily involved in the Delta by Marriott project.
Eric and Sarah Watson, a well-established culinary couple in Fargo, took notice of the space. They saw value in what Silver Moon had created. In 2012, with a few small but meaningful changes, the space became home to Mezzaluna, which today has the feel of a New York sidewalk café Eric envisioned. The restaurant’s bar, dubbed Mezzaluna on the Alley, is a stunning centerpiece and a great place to meet friends or treat customers.
A solid anchor for Roberts Alley, Mezzaluna has proven that Fargo is seeking new experiences to discover in its vibrant downtown neighborhood. The Watsons recently turned the reigns and sold Mezzaluna to their general manager, who has shared that he is committed to the established vision and experience of the restaurant.
We will continue to build on the alley experience kick-started by Monte Jones. We’ve seen more businesses successfully open customer entrances in the alley. You’ll also find The Boiler Room, Rosey’s Bistro and Bar, Prairie Petals, Fowlers Heritage Company, Pinch & Pour, Mezzaluna, Dempsey’s Public House and Twist.
Most recently, we’ve welcomed Pink Luxe Boutique, Ecce Art Gallery and Scoop N Dough Candy Co. into their brand-new alley spaces.
The City of Fargo is reinvesting into the alley as well, replacing the southern half last summer, and the northern half this summer. All of Roberts Alley’s businesses remain open through the construction and invite you to discover them!
Roberts Alley is evolving. The idea grows and it was adapted by the community. Neighbors are working together to create a positive, pedestrian-scale experience through things like keeping the path clean, trash consolidation, lighting, and storefront design. We challenge you to support the risk takers. Take the time to find the alley and visit the shops and restaurants. You may find it’s right up your alley!